Copland: The Tender Land (Complete Chamber Version)
One of Aaron Copland's rare forays into opera, "The Tender Land" is often compared to his ballet "Appalachian Spring" -- and despite the fact that the ballet is a ubiquitous anthem, while the opera remains a rarity, this analogy makes sense. Both works revel in their rural settings, and both incorporate tunes the composer included in his collection of "Old American Songs." The plot of "The Tender Land" is nothing to write home about. Two drifters stumble into a small farm community. One falls in love with a local girl on the eve of her graduation, setting the community aflame with suspicions. Commissioned by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the music does have a bit of "Oklahoma" about it, although it never breaks out into anything resembling a Broadway tune. Subtlety is the key here, with music illuminating the inner thoughts of everyone involved, particularly the relationship between the girl and her mother. The cast on this very welcome recording is especially adept filling that middle ground between opera and musical theater. Even the scaled-down, 13-piece orchestration by conductor Murray Sidlin puts the music in a more appropriate scale of Broadway pit band -- where it probably belonged all along.